October 31, 2020

Looking for Data Sources on Men in Nursing

Last week, I mentioned a number of questions that arise for me as I think about the prospects for increasing gender diversity and equality in nursing. I’m almost certain I’ll think of more questions as I continue to produce this blog. For now, please feel free to follow the link above to look at the list of preliminary questions. Then read on.

It seems to go without saying for many people that the profession of nursing needs more men as practicing nurses. Having entered the field as a second career, I haven’t spent my earliest professional years as a newly minted registered nurse at a time when there were even fewer men in nursing than there are now. (As I write this, the conventional wisdom seems to be that fewer than 10 percent of practicing nurses identify as male.) Instead, I entered nursing after half a career in life science research, having worked among a very different demographic milieu in terms of gender as well as ethnically and linguistically. My former situation within the social order of research was very different from my current situation in nursing.

Despite the sharp contrasts between the environments of the two fields, I believe I have adapted well thus far. However, one of the most important fundamental questions seems to be addressed very infrequently. Why is an increase in the proportion of nurses who identify as male desirable? In other words, what is the justification for all of the effort exerted to increase gender diversity in nursing? Who says the field needs that? And why?

Is it not possible that what we really need is not more males in nursing but greater clarity concerning the nature and meaning of nursing work? Of course, I’m not advocating that nurses who identify as male should leave the field of nursing. On the contrary, I believe our society stands to benefit greatly from an increase in the proportion of males among people performing work traditionally thought of as nursing work. However, I’m not convinced we should attempt to achieve such a result without also taking a close look at the philosophical underpinnings of nursing as a field.

This week, I’ve been thinking about the need to locate more reliable and up-to-date sources of information in this field. At this time, I’m compiling a sort of library for future use. Although there are plenty of voices saying “we need more men in nursing,” I’ve heard relatively few delve into the question of why?

Have you come across a good source exploring that “why” question? If so, please share it with us.

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